Universiteit Leiden

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Emilia Hannula

Assistant professor

Dr. S.E. Hannula
+31 71 527 7489

Dr. Emilia Hannula is a soil ecologist passionate about all soil creatures and especially soil fungi.

More information about Emilia Hannula

Professional experience

Emilia is an expert in soil ecology with special love for soil fungi. Her research focuses on understanding how composition, traits and interactions between soil biota regulate ecosystem functions, how disturbances affect soil biota and subsequent functions, and ultimately how soil biodiversity and functions can be restored.
She works on topics such as plant-soil feedbacks, temporal and spatial stability of microbiomes, effects of land-use change on soil fungi, foodwebs, and functions, and on ways to steer soil fungal communities for better functioning (soil) ecosystem. She is especially interested in trait-based analyses of fungi and soil multifunctionality in relation to sustainable future. Her expertise includes tracing carbon through system using stable isotopes, (molecular) microbiome analysis, and networks. 

She completed her PhD in 2012 in Microbial Ecology department of NIOO-KNAW and Institute of Biology Leiden. After the PhD she did a post-doc in large European project (‘EcoFinders’) investigating the effects of land-use on soil fungal communities using molecular fingerprinting methods and tracing the carbon to soil organisms (DNA-SIP). After that she worked while in another European project (‘SoilCare’) and analysed soil fungi across Europe and further worked in another project as a post-doc in NIOO-KNAW department of Terrestrial Ecology on plant-soil feedbacks and soil fungi affecting plant communities and plant growth. In 2019 she gained personal funding from Tor and Maj Nessling foundation to study the effects of soil disturbances on soil fungi and carbon cycling in soils. She is currently a guest researcher in NIOO-KNAW and you can read about her previous work here
Since 2021, she works as an assistant professor in the Institute of Environmental Sciences (CML) at Leiden University. She strives to lead a group that is a safe, healthy, productive, and inclusive environment for everyone. 

Research topic

1.    The role of soil fungal traits in ecosystem functions across ecosystems. Despite the established fundamental importance of fungi in various soil processes, very little is known about the fungal traits associated with soil multifunctionality. In this topic modern molecular techniques and isotopes are combined with cultivation based techniques to create trait-based framework to disentangle the diversity of fungal traits associated with soil functions across a land-use gradient, ranging from bacteria-dominated degraded arable lands to fungal-rich forest soils. Trait-based community assembly effects on soil functions explored and strategies to steer fungal traits that restore soil multifunctionality are investigated. The obtained fundamental understanding of how fungal traits determine ecosystem multifunctionality will provide a solid basis to design management strategies that optimize the life-support functions of soils.

2.    Global analysis of fungi. In recent years the substantial drop in sequencing costs combined with the explosive growth in sequencing capacity has propelled the number of studies that have addressed the effects of variety of soil management styles and for example plant species on fungal communities. Thus, there is a need to synthesize the available data using large-scale meta-analysis and ‘big data’ to answer global questions on fungal geographic distribution and driving forces. This approach is complemented with small-scale testing of the most important factors in laboratory/microcosm experiments. As a whole, this leads to improved knowledge on global fungal distribution and on ecological and evolutionary factors affecting fungal communities. 

3.    Components of soil-biodiversity and plant-microbe interactions. To entangle the effects of biodiversity needed to sustain functions (so called biodiversity- ecosystem functioning relationship) in soils and supporting plant growth, series approaches modifying soil fungal community with combinations of food-web complexities will be used to test how diversity and species identity modify plant performance and soil health. This approach will offer fundamental insights into biodiversity-ecosystem functioning relationship and answer the question how much diversity is needed to maintain good functioning and plant growth (i.e. level of functional redundancy in the system). This can be further used to evaluate which soils and for example management systems are at the risk of losing their function due to reduction of diversity and complexity.

4.    Transferability of soil-biodiversity. Native grassland species have a very diverse beneficial microbiome that can partly be transferred to agricultural soils by growing these plants in the soils. Furthermore, microbes are shared between soils, plants and animals feeding on both. Interesting questions rising is how wide spread this sharing of microbes is, what are its ecosystem level consequences, and are microbiomes transferred between organisms interacting in the food web and for example in host-parasite relationship.  I will further address the question if soil microbiomes can be steered and transferred to new locations as part of nature restoration. 

Assistant professor

  • Science
  • Centrum voor Milieuwetenschappen Leiden
  • CML/Environmental Biology

Work address

Van Steenis
Einsteinweg 2
2333 CC Leiden
Room number A3.09



  • No relevant ancillary activities
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